Early in Georgia Tech’s resounding victory over Virginia Tech on Thursday night, quarterback Tobias Oliver dropped back to pass on a third-and-8 and made a little bit of magic happen. He slipped out of a tackle attempt from an edge rusher, then juked two more Hokies as he scrambled out of the pocket for a first down.
Watching the ESPN broadcast from his home, Chad Alligood, Oliver’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Northside High in Warner Robins, knew then that his former pupil would be OK as he made his first career start in place of TaQuon Marshall. Soon after, Alligood, the head coach at Washington-Wilkes High, was deluged with text messages from colleagues from Northside.
“All of us coaches in a group text instantly all sent (texts) and said, ‘That’s the Tobias we know!’” Alligood told the AJC on Friday, a day after Oliver led Georgia Tech to a 49-28 win over the Hokies in Blacksburg, Va. “We were all thinking (the same thing). My wife sitting beside me said, ‘Chad, I’ve seen him do it 100 times.’”
The delight that Tech fans felt Thursday night in watching the redshirt freshman lead the Jackets to their third win in a row over the Hokies in a game critical for the season, Alligood felt all the more.
“It was just fun to watch him go out there and watch him be the player we all knew he could be,” Alligood said.
Alligood was particularly delighted to see Oliver, in a boisterous road environment, show the cool that he exhibited on Friday nights at McConnell-Talbert Stadium. Alligood said he even noticed him air drumming as he called a play and brought it up when the two caught up Friday morning.
“He said, ‘Coach, you saw that?’” Alligood said. “I said, ‘Everybody in the nation saw that.’”
Oliver achieved legend status at Northside, a state powerhouse. As a sophomore in 2014, Oliver became an emergency starter when the No. 1 quarterback contracted appendicitis days before a game.
“Tobias just never blinked an eye,” Alligood said.
From the summer that he enrolled at Georgia Tech: Tobias Oliver yearns for greatness
Oliver led the Eagles to a win and never relinquished the job, leading Northside to the Class AAAAA state championship. Over his high-school career, Oliver endeared himself to Alligood with his toughness, character and burning competitiveness. (Oliver also engaged in three memorable duels with Houston County High quarterback Jake Fromm, now taking snaps at Georgia.)
Alligood said that, even though Oliver was 5-foot-10 and 145 pounds as a sophomore, he never came out of a game once for injury in his career, not even for a snap. Tech fans saw the same abandon Thursday night as Oliver flung his body about Lane Stadium in search of extra yards on his 40 carries that went for 215 yards and three touchdowns.
“He said, ‘Coach, you never let me carry it 40 times,’” Alligood said. “I said, ‘No, I didn’t.’”
In more than 20 years of high-school coaching, Alligood compared Oliver’s competitive spirit with just one other player, Casey Hayward, the Chargers’ two-time All-Pro cornerback from Perry High.
“Those two just have that burning desire to be great,” Alligood said. “And I don’t think that’s very common today. I think a lot of people want to be good.”
Beyond his play on the field, Alligood saw it in Oliver’s studies (he graduated with honors) and in his preparation.
“In every quarterbacks meeting, in everything,” he said. “He was prepared. He was asking questions. He watched video on his own. At practice, if we weren’t on offense, he wanted to go be a scout-team player.”
Alligood took particular pride in Oliver’s comments following the game regarding the starting job. Oliver said the job was Marshall’s, but that “if he needs to come out for a couple drives, then I got him. He’s got my help.”
It was a well-communicated and team-first response, typical of the humility that Alligood saw in Olver at Northside.
“That’s the kid we’ve all known,” Alligood said. “I’m glad that people will get the opportunity to see that in him.”
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